One of the subplots from an eventful Feb. 25 edition of Raw was that despite what just about every wrestling fan I know has been thinking since it was announced a couple weeks ago, Ric Flair’s 70th birthday celebration was not a vehicle for advancing the Becky Lynch/Ronda Rousey/Charlotte Flair story.
That program, which is believed to a leading candidate to close the show at WrestleMania 35 in New Jersey on April 7, was advanced in a big, unexpected way. Lynch attacked during Ronda’s tag match with Natalya against the Riott Squad, official had to separate Becky and Ronda, Lynch was “arrested” and Rowdy left her Raw Women’s title in the ring when Stephanie McMahon & Triple H wouldn’t agree to rescind Vince McMahon’s suspension of Becky and put her in the match with Rousey & Flair at ‘Mania.
And it happened at an important point in the broadcast, in the segments around 9pm Eastern!
Regardless what you think of the fact things are headed toward a Triple Threat, or any of the characters’ alignments, or if one or all three of the wrestlers are undeserving of their push, you’ve probably noticed the story is taking up less time on Raw and SmackDown lately. Coming out of Royal Rumble, this program was running on both brands, usually in multiple scenes per episode. It didn’t feel unusual when it was used for a show-long angle which ran through all three hours of the Feb. 11 Raw.
But coming out of Lynch’s crutch attack on Rousey & Flair at Elimination Chamber, WWE took a week off from the story. The 15-ish minutes dedicated to it last night felt more impactful as a result.
This isn’t a ratings argument, although if the number which come out today continue last week’s upswing, it’ll be part of that narrative. I also don’t intend it as a statement on Bex, Char or Ronnie’s ability to carry a feud of this magnitude. Maybe they can. But maybe they can’t - and maybe no one on earth could over the course of 5 - 9 hour of television per week.
Instead, it’s a creative argument. Because the folks who benefit the most from WWE not trying to tie every aspect of their programming into the Raw Women’s title feud are the fans - including ones who want to see more of The Man, or Rowdy, or the Queen.
We’re close to ‘Mania but there are 11 episodes of Raw & SmackDown and one pay-per-view (PPV) to go before we get to MetLife Stadium. That’s plenty of time for twists and turns, confrontations and brawls - all the things which generate excitement for wrestling matches. There’s already layers and layers of stakes to the match, from the kayfabe battle for the belt to analysis of how each wrestler is presented and what that means for her standing backstage.
And WWE Creative, god love ‘em, can’t help themselves. If they’re told to give the Becky/Ronda/Charlotte feud an hour of each Raw and 30 minutes of every SmackDown, we’re gonna get plot developments and swerves for the sake of plot developments and swerves, not because the story dictates them.
If that also keeps them from having to asking Rousey to deliver long promos she’s not comfortable with, or overexposing The Man with Stone Cold’s booking, or giving ammo to fans who think Charlotte is only pushed for her last name, well, that’s just an added bonus.
As a guy who knew a thing or two about putting on a show once said, always leave ‘em wanting more. For a few weeks, I don’t think anyone was demanding more of a story a lot of people will give women’s wrestling its first WrestleMania main event - and that was creating a situation where no on was happy.
But by rationing out moments like they did last night on Raw, WWE can let the stars shine, leave the audience anticipating their next appearance and not risk overexposing them or their writers.
Becky didn’t get to put a Dis-Arm-Her on Ric Flair last night. But Ronda looked like a savvy, honorable competitor, Charlotte looks to be smartly biding her time and letting them fight each other while waiting for her title shot, and Lynch fans will be that much more excited the next time The Man comes around.
Works for me.